It was the second year of our marriage, and the arguing in our house was getting more intense. My wife, Heather, was arguing with her mom about whether or not they did family devotions in their house when Heather was growing up.
Heather exclaimed, “Mom, I don’t know what you are talking about. I’m not saying you guys are bad parents, but we never did family devotions when I was growing up.”
Heather’s mom replied, “I don’t care what you say. I know we studied the Bible with you kids. I remember. I can’t believe you’re saying this.”
Before I knew it, they started crying, the argument was over, but nothing was settled. They still disagreed. Heather said they didn’t; her mom said they did.
It wasn’t until later that they figured out the irony of all ironies. They were both right.
Evidently, they did have regular Bible-oriented family time—but only when Heather was young. When she and her brother started school and they started getting involved with other activities, they stopped.
Ensuring a Parenting Legacy
Something about that nagged at me and wouldn’t let go. That night, I was haunted by one solitary question: What if my children forget me?
I thought, “What if I am a great dad on half the days of my children’s lives and a deadbeat dad on the other half? And what if they forget the days that I was a great dad? Then it would be as if I was only ever a deadbeat dead.”
That would be the worst thing in the world for me. So I started thinking about all the things that I could do to ensure that my parenting legacy would be a God-glorifying one.
But first I had to know…what makes things memorable, and what makes things forgettable? Why do we remember birthdays, weddings, funerals, childbirth, moving, and any kind of emotional devastation or exhilaration?
It appears to me that the single greatest reason for remembering or forgetting an event is the level of intensity associated with it. One way to create intensity is to simply be consistent. Doing something every day is a surefire way to make sure it’s remembered.
I needed to scale up what I wanted my family to remember. I didn’t want to be caught turning, “Alright, I love you. Bye,” into a single word expelled with a solitary breath! Ugh. My wife deserves better. Our children deserve better.
From that fateful conversation, that principle of intensity has governed everything I do as a parent that I want to be remembered. In living my life this way, I have discovered three simple, yet powerful, keys to leaving a parenting legacy—to being remembered.
If you want something to be remembered, increase the intensity. Go big.
Are you saying, “I love you?” Don’t just say it. Engage as many senses as you can. Cradle your children’s faces while you look into their eyes. Enhance your message with a tighter-than-average hug or a kiss. Pause before you speak in order to command their rapt attention. Then say it with as much expressiveness as you can muster. Jam as much love as you can into every single word.
“I LOVE you!”
“I. Love. YOU!”
Play with it. Have fun with it, but Go Big. Engage as many love languages as possible. (Read Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages.) You never know which love language will become your children’s most dominant.
Are you on vacation? Then don’t just do life as usual like watching TV or playing video games. Go somewhere you’ve never been. Do something you’ve never done. Eat something you’ve never eaten. Play a game you’ve never played. If you never go for a walk, do that. Just do something that you have thought about. Don’t simply let life happen. Think about something, and go do it.
I am so convinced of the power of being deliberate that I think it’s worth your time to spend five minutes the night before you go to bed to think about one deliberate thing you can do the next day. If you wait until the morning, it’s probably too late.
Be intentional. Whether it’s in your day-to-day living or on special occasions, go deliberate.
As homeschooling parents, we care very much about everything involved with our children and often want to engage in “Extra-Mile Parenting.” But then we sometimes over think things so much that we discourage ourselves before we even try.
That’s why the third and maybe most important key to creating a parenting legacy is simply to just go. Just do something. And don’t stop when your kids get older.
Of course you’re going to pray about it. However, one of my mentors once told me, “God answers prayers, but sometimes you have to give him something to work with.”
If you ever feel unable to go big or have nothing deliberate left in your tank, at least go and do something.
And then give it to God. God promises those who love him and stay true to his calling that he can make good come from anything (Romans 8:28). That means, even if you think your effort is abysmal, God can do wonders with it. Ultimately, isn’t it God who we want to raise our children anyway? We are simply stewards of our children’s souls until they return to him.
So, go big with your children. Do something deliberate. And if you don’t know what to do, by all means, to the glory of God, just go.
Your children will never forget.
Frederic Gray, founding director of the Fathers of Faith and national award-winning speaker, is passionate about helping families successfully grow together through the pursuit of quality home education. Frederic and his wife, Heather, have four children.
Frederic Gray, the founder of the “Fathers of Faith and Daughters of Excellence” retreat, has spoken for homeschooling groups, state and local conventions, family camps, and retreats across the country. Learn more about him at www.fredericgray.com.